I don't celebrate Christmas. I never have and I'm fairly sure I never will. Growing up in Ottawa in the '80s, my Christmas celebrating friends would often be shocked that December 25th was just another morning for me where I would sleep in and then go downstairs and watch cartoons with a bowl of cereal. I never felt like I was missing out though. I grew up being taught that Christmas just wasn't a part of our Muslim traditions.
I plan on teaching my children the same values that I had growing up regarding Christmas. So it came as a shock to me last week, when, as I was cooking dinner one evening while my two- and three-year-old boys were watching TV, my three-year-old turned to me during a toy commercial and said, "Mommy, can you buy me that as my Christmas present this year?"
I stopped what I was doing and laughed out loud wondering where he had learned that. We certainly don't talk about Christmas presents in our home. It must be from school I thought. He's old enough now to understand all the marketing and media that surrounds him. I gently reminded him that we don't celebrate Christmas but maybe if he's a good boy, he might get that present for Eid.
However, his question left me wondering if I had any part to play in his curiosity for Christmas. It's not like my kids don't have any fun. As Muslims, we celebrate Eid twice a year and in our house, we go all out. That means twice the presents stacked up for weeks, cookies being baked and exchanged, parties to host and attend, decorations to put up and all the while explaining the symbolism and religious understanding behind each Eid.
But I have to admit, I love Christmas! I love this time of year; the lights, trees, music. So I had to ask myself, am I confusing my kids? What role do I play in showing them that Christmas really is the most important time of year?
Well, on the way to school this week, I caught myself teaching my son the lyrics to "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" in the car. I hum "Jingle Bells" during bath time. And while walking through the mall a few weeks ago, I shrieked with glee and pointed out Santa to both my kids as he was sitting surrounded by all his presents. I never go to Starbucks but can't get enough of their red cups filled with peppermint hot chocolate during the holidays. So I had to really think about it. What role is Christmas going to play in my home?
I grew up singing the songs, knowing about Santa through friends at school and hearing about all the amazing Christmas gifts my peers had gotten in the New Year. I even have a picture of me sitting on Santa's lap when I was about five years old (I assume due to my immigrant parents not really understanding what it was all about at the time). Yet, none of it fazed me.
Every Eid, I would get about $20 from any adult I saw that day (a lot of money back then) and would go laughing all the way to the bank. My parents would have huge open house Eid parties in which all the uncles and aunties would eat enough biryani and naan to leave them in diabetic comas and us kids would gorge on all the desserts. I never really felt like I was missing out on Christmas celebrations because of all the fun we had around Eid.
I have no issue with Christmas. It's a wonderful and festive time of year, but my husband and I just don't consider it to be a part of our household's celebrations. And while I have the utmost respect for anyone who celebrates it, Christian or not, our home will never have a tree or milk and cookies by the fireplace on Christmas Eve.
At their age, the best explanation I can give my kids is that we are Muslim and that's why we don't celebrate Christmas. I know that as they get older, I can get into more detail but for now, that will have to suffice. That's not to say many Muslims don't partake in the commercial celebration of it all. I have many Muslim friends who put up a tree and spoil their kids with presents. We simply prefer to save all of that for our actual religious holiday: Eid.
We still wish our friends and neighbours who celebrate a Merry Christmas just as they wish us a Happy Eid when it's our turn and I hope to pass on this respect for other holidays and faiths to our children. I want to teach them that simply because we are surrounded by all the marketing and seasonal fun doesn't mean that we need to partake in it. Even if Mommy does happen to belt out George Michael's "Last Christmas" every time I hear it on the radio...
By Sheba Siddiqui, columnist at www.masalamommas.com
Follow Sheba on Twitter at: @shebasid
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